Where personal protection equipment (PPE) is available for use at a facility, employees must be trained in the proper use of this equipment. This is a basic requirement for the use of all types of PPE, and one that is often overlooked for the rarely used Emergency Life Support Apparatus (ELSA). These self-contained breathing apparatus are designed for emergency escape only. With proper training, affected employees will be able to react quickly and properly in the event that use of an ELSA is required. Proper initial training with regular refresher training prepares employees to react quickly and correctly in an emergency.
ELSAs are easy to use once employees become familiar and comfortable with putting them on properly and turning on the air supply. Every employee should be familiar with the alert that will indicate an emergency event that requires the use of an ELSA and know exactly where the equipment is stored in their work area.
Training in the use of this equipment should include an explanation of the equipment and how it works as well as how long the air supply will last. The training should emphasize that ELSA are intended for escape purposes and have limited air supplies. The training should include a ‘hands-on’ segment where employees practice use of an ELSA. The ESLA should be removed from its packaging. The employee should have the opportunity to put on the protective hood, turn on the air supply and breathe using the device for a short time so that they fully understand exactly how it would feel to use the device in a real emergency.
All employees expected to use an ELSA for emergency evacuation should be trained annually in the proper use of this equipment. It is too late to learn how to use emergency breathing equipment when an actual emergency occurs. Fumbling with the device and figuring out how to cover the head and turn on the air can eat away crucial seconds resulting in inhalation of toxic fumes that can result in death or permanent damage.
The OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard mandates annual training of employees that are required to use respirators in their workplace. In addition, OSHA requires that emergency escape-only respirator be inspected prior to being carried into the workplace for use. Failure to provide proper training or this inspection can result in noncompliance with these OSHA requirements. But more important, lives are at stake if proper initial and refresher training is not provided. Employees need to feel fully comfortable using this type of emergency equipment as well as any other emergency escape equipment appropriate for the work they do or the areas they can access.
Emilcott has been assisting clients manage respiratory protection for over 25 years, including Respiratory Program Administration, qualitative and quantitative respirator fit-testing, and respirator usage training.